The hotel industry continues to innovate when it comes to sustainability measures. It doesn’t have to be a hassle to create an environment that is friendly to the universe while also making guests feel as though they’re reducing their carbon footprint. The common misconception is going green can be costly, time-consuming and inefficient, but by following these helpful trends, hoteliers can operate a sustainable hotel with ease.
1. Innovative and changing guest engagement
As new services and technologies mesh with creative ways for hotels to save money, we are seeing some good innovation come through that could shift standards and standard practices. Take for example Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s “Make a Green Choice” program, which could possibly be adopted by even more companies in the years to come. Opt out of room cleaning all together, and the company incentivizes the guest by offering a voucher at a participating food-and-beverage outlet or 500 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints . It uses less energy, less water, less cleaning supplies (and shhh! less labor). Guests benefit tangibly, and more so than just the pride they feel for saving the planet by hanging their towels on the rack. That is one example of many to follow. Hybrid charging stations, energy-producing fitness equipment, guest participation activities—all are very exciting and will further infuse sustainability into a competitive, strategic discussion.
2. Return of the LOHAS
Ah, Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. I heard this term used more frequently last decade, but only recently has it crossed into the mainstream of the hotel industry. When the recent push toward addressing sustainability emerged on an industry level, the LOHAS was missing. But now we’re seeing it all come together. More engagement with LOHAS means a focus on healthy eating, fitness and wellness and new brands entirely designed around these concepts with improved psychographic research to boot. Technically this is a return of the term LOHAS and not the market, which has always been there and growing. But now we’re getting to them as an industry.
3. F&B sustainability
“It’s complicated” is no longer an acceptable answer to tackling F&B sustainability. Guests are aware this affects them directly. Get out your tracking sheets, because it will be good to know totals and percentages by weight and by purchase price, the distance from where each item is sourced, and whether it is organic, sustainably harvested, all-natural and certified. And it’s not just what guests eat, but what they eat it with. Remember how fast food was criticized for serving burgers in Styrofoam containers? Besides the environmental damage from the manufacturing of plastic packaging, plates and utensils and the bad taste it gives food, some limited-service hotels have found it’s more cost-effective to use reusable serviceware than sending all that plastic into its eventual retirement community in the Pacific Ocean. The one exception is the coffee cup lid, which is essentially the same material and problematic to change out. For now, we’ll let Starbucks handle that one.
4. Carbon footprinting for the hotel room and meeting
The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, led by the International Tourism Partnership and the World Travel & Tourism Council, will soon have guidance on how to calculate this uniformly across the industry. This will lead to an increased understanding of the relationship of everything we consume to the environment. And the calculation is easy, don’t worry!
5. Standardized requests from clients
Yes, we all care about the environment. Yes, we’re all committed and have a green program. But does that program fit specific needs of the client? And how can the client evaluate programs uniformly across all brands and properties? While certification of the building is a huge trend itself, it is not enough to fill the demand for information requests. Take for example the Global Business Travel Association’s Hotel RFP, which in addition to its 700 other questions now lists a dozen or so that deal specifically with sustainable practices and performance. At corporate levels, Environmental, Social and Governance survey fatigue is apparent, and standard responses with the help of frameworks such as the global reporting initiative make this easier and more streamlined. This should trickle down to property level surveying and systems integration with sustainability software. And the pesky APEX/ASTM environmentally sustainable meetings standards will see more airtime at hotels for providing lodging and venues for meetings. While there will probably be some industry pushback on the standards for some of their more difficult criteria in operations, the standards do represent a good first start and a prescriptive checklist for the property to follow.
Eric Ricaurte works with the hotel industry and its leading companies to advance sustainability through reporting and measurement. His current activities include consulting, industry engagement, academic fellowship, column writing and publication authoring.
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